The BOSS Future Focus conference, held virtually on 16th September in conjunction with the BPIF and VMC to address the post-COVID-19 environment, has been reported as more than a virtual success.
With a range of topics to choose from and the ability to Zoom in and out of the conference as delegates’ needs permitted, this was one of the most flexible and wide-ranging events that the Federation has held.
A day of wide-ranging input from an array of speakers was kicked off by Jonathan Geldart, the Director of the Institute of Directors, who used his personal experience of walking to the North Pole to both challenge and assure: “Is it true that the world is never going to be the same again?”, he asked, pointing out that the lessons learned from the Spanish Flu of a century ago was that such events accelerated existing trends rather than created new ones.
Other keynote speeches were delivered by:
- Felicity Burch, Director Innovation and Digital, CBI – COVID-19’s impact on the acceleration of technology adoption.
- James Sommerville, Founder, Known Unknown (former VP Global Design The Coca- Cola Company) – How brands and companies can differentiate themselves in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Adrian Odds, Director of Strategy & Market Propositions, Communisis – How to use Artificial Intelligence to cut through the noise.
- During the day there were also two-panel sessions aimed specifically at the Business Supplies industry: “The Future of the UK Business Supplies Industry” was chaired by BOSS Chairman Simon Drakeford and featured Steve Haworth (CEO, EVO Group), Darren Lloyd (CEO, United Managed Office Services), Richard Coulson (CEO, Complete Business Supplies), Alex Tatham (MD, Westcoast) and Anna Chalmers (Sales Director, HP).
In the afternoon, the second-panel session, entitled “COVID-19 & Its Global Impact On Business Supplies”, was chaired by Steve Hilleard (CEO of OPI) and featured an equally impressive cast of international speakers: Brad O’Brien (CEO, Office Choice – Australia), Beth Wright (VP Sales, Fellowes – USA) and Kenneth Borup (CEO, Lomax – Denmark). The panel’s discussion across a number of topics showed that the impact and effects of the pandemic on the OP industries in other countries had not been dissimilar to our own: ‘traditional’ OP volumes were down dramatically, there were extensive supply chain issues on some products and a huge increase in demand was created for home working items and PPE.
Looking ahead, the panellists believed that the ‘new normal’ would be a hybrid of home and office-based working and that sustainability would eventually return to the top of the business agenda, with dealers possibly providing a collection service for single-use items such as face masks.
Finally, asked what key lesson had been learned from the experience of the last six months, Kenneth observed, “when you look into the future you can never be totally sure what’s coming.”
Amy Hutchinson, BOSS CEO said, “at BOSS one of our key aims is to connect those in the industry with each other, in addition to leading insight and support. The last 6 months have been challenging for many businesses. We wanted to provide a day of insight and look ahead to the future with leading figures in and outside of our sector.
“With physical events not possible we were delighted to welcome just under 400 delegates to our first virtual Future Focus Conference and it was encouraging that many took advantage of the networking facilities available, making new connections as a result of attending.”